A Karelian man has been charged with extremism for calling for a referendum to return the northern republic and parts of the Murmansk and Leningrad regions to Finland, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The man, identified only as a 47-year-old Petrozavodsk resident, said the territories near Russia's border with Finland were "groundlessly" annexed by the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1947, prosecutors said.
He put leaflets into mailboxes in the Karelian town of Sortavala and e-mailed his appeal to Russian and foreign media outlets and nongovernmental organizations.
The suspect "called for the violent change of Russia's territorial integrity," Marina Kozyreva, a spokeswoman for Karelia's prosecutor's office, said by telephone.
She said, however, that she could not remember what sort of violence he had proposed.
The suspect faces up to three years in prison if convicted of making public calls to extremist activity.
Dmitry Dubrovsky, a senior researcher at the Russian Ethnographic Museum, told The Moscow Times that he saw nothing criminal in the leaflets and that police had opted not to use him as an official expert in their case after he told them that they did not breach anti-extremism laws.
Thanks to Google News and Translate, I was able to find this Russian-language article which went into greater detail about what happened.
January 16, 2010 in the city Sortavala leaflets appeared to unusual appeals. Unknown persons were laying on their home mailboxes citizens. They were written on behalf of the organization were "Ladoga Karelia, which painted a rather picturesque horrors of the Russian life. To solve all the problems suggested a radical way - to back Russian border in Finland all the lands which passed to the Soviet Union after the signing of international treaties in 1939 and 1947 respectively. Under the distribution came not only part of Karelia, and the territory of Murmansk and Leningrad regions.
These extremist appeals immediately to the attention of the FSB, but the city at that time had time to disperse about 50 copies of hazardous leaflets. Moreover, the time for propaganda was chosen very appropriate. In the courtyard stood a cold winter, and residents Sortavala froze from the cold, because the city did not have enough fuel for heating. Dissatisfaction with the inhabitants of the actions of the authorities grew, and then suddenly have mentioned leaflets. "... While politicians and business tycoons line their pockets with money, we - the people of Karelia, remain powerless observers, as our Fatherland stolen. So how much can you tolerate? "- Asked the authors of the message. Then came the call to join Finland. Although inherited all the cold, significant reaction from the local population information leaflets did not cause. But law-enforcement bodies seriously, to find sponsors.
The whole episode is ridiculous. Leaving aside the fact that Russia is just uninterested in giving up any territories, the Finns don't want them. The territories cited above, all ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union after the Winter War, were originally populated by Finns; if they still were, there would have been a strong movement for union with Finland in these territories, at least for closer associations. Even Romania has been intermittently able to attract Moldovans--if not Moldova--into its orbit. The Finns living in those territories were lucky enough to be successfully evacuated into rump Finland ahead of the Soviets, however, the remaining Finnic peoples in adjacent East Karelia remaining Soviets (now Russians). Few Finns want to annex into their country territories with overwhelmingly non-Finnish populations, with sadly underdeveloped economies needing proportionately at least as much investment as East Germany after reunification, just because these territories were Finnish in their grandparents' lifetimes.
It would be interesting to know the ancestry of this anonymous unfortunate 47 year old, if he was Finnish or Karelian by ethnicity. I'm unaware of any separatist movement among either nationality; Finnish and Karelian activism in the Republic of Karelia is limited to pressure for greater state support for their language and culture. Even if there was such a movement, the demographics would make such a movement hopeless: in the Republic of Karelia the 2002 census recorded that less than 12% of the population claimed any Finnic identity at all, while in the areas ceded to the Soviet Union hardly any Finns remained at all.
Might people in the Republic of Karelia, and/or in the Karelian Isthmus once part of Finland, want to secede to Finland regardless, to enjoy happy social-democratic prosperity inside the European Union, regardless of ethnic issues? I suppose it's possible, but unless I am missing a mass movement just waiting to be born there isn't such a movement. It would be among the first of its kind, being without precedent: Poles in Silesia didn't want their region to secede to the Germany their region was tied with for prosperity's sake and despite nationalism, Baja California remains firmly Mexican, and in 1991 Slovenia chose (well, not so much "chose" as "not considered at all") not to try to become a Land of Austria. The fears expressed by the Russian government that prosecuted that nameless Karelian are rooted in the fantastical.
That isn't what Stratfor has to say. I posted an extended rant last June about how Stratfor founder George Friedman's view of the world is frustratingly limited, reduced to the calculations of the lengths of borders and the size of armies and facts about historical issues, not taking into account the innumerable features of economic and cultural and political life that determine what the future makes of the past but occasionally inserting prejudices (Mexican irredentism, please) with little grounding. And, yes, Stratfor's analysts follow not, well, reality, but the same profoundly blinkered perspectives: this 2004 update lists Karelia along with Tatarstan and Chechnya as one of the regions that could "surge" against the Russian government, this 2004 post talks about how Karelia is spreading "revolutionary" spirit, this post goes to cite secessionism in (among other regions) Karelia as a reason on why Russia would not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (got that wrong, no?).
Argh. If only we had less superficial Internet analysis, more, well, analysis embedded in reality!